I have been listening to the new Sinead O’Connor album today, but it is too complex of a record to absorb since its released last night at midnight. The album, by the way, is called I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss. I never really listened to Sinead O’Connor during the time when she was at the top of the charts. I was off listening to whatever music a young male listens to back then. She didn’t seem “cool” at the time, and that is my loss. Luckily I have realized by now what a tremendous talent that she is.
I discovered her best album first. Her last album, How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?, is one of my absolute favorite records of the last few years. It is one of those albums that manages to blend the personal and political, where the artist is able to look out at the world with both empathy and disgust. The album is also first rate when it comes to music and melody. Every song is well arranged and every melody is full of hooks that will stick with you long after you have listened to the record. However, where an album that takes on so many topics and styles might appear disjointed if you hadn’t heard it, the production is simply top notch and ties everything together. The writing, most of which is O’Connor’s, also has a lot to do with the unity of the record. An album with so many themes works because you get a sense that you are getting a full picture of the artist as a human being. The record sounds warm and inviting, it sounds current, without the digital brittleness of many modern records, and without any production tricks that will sound dated in a few years. When I listen to it, I can’t help but think of albums like Born to Run, Achtung Baby, and Vauxhall and I. These are perfect records that haven’t aged a day since they were released. Of course O’Connor’s album won’t change the world like those records did, because her media light wasn’t shining at its brightest when it was released, but it is in their caliber.
First of all O’Connor can flat out sing. She is also an excellent writer. The very things that got her in trouble, even though she was right on SNL if not always, is the very thing that makes her such a unique talent. You get the sense that whatever she is singing is something that she deeply believes in that moment. She may change her mind in the next minute, and infuriate people, but in the moment she is completely true to her convictions.
This album is political, but not in a current events kind of way, unless you count the songs that still seem to hold a grudge for the religion that did her, and so many others damage in Ireland. Her songs are too character driven, too personal, to be merely be songs that are ripped from the newspapers. She writes a song from the point of view of a junkie, where despite the junkie’s obvious failings, and the song’s dark mood, you can’t help but feel empathy for the character. This at a time when the War on Drugs is appearing more absurd then ever. However, there are no statements made, just on characters story. One of the most powerful songs on the album is the closing tour de force V.I.P. In this song she tears down celebrity and religion in equal measures. I know some of you may find the fact that a celebrity is taking on celebrity as too much to bear. However, the passion and the intelligence in this song should silence any criticism.
O’Connor writes about joy in love with all of the same passion and intelligence that she uses in her more scathing works. Writing a love song that actually is infused with joy and love is a lot harder to do than one would think. It’s hard to describe an emotion that is so often talked about in cliches with any kind of originality. On several songs she manages this feat with ease. Above I have posted a live version of the single for this record, The Wolf is Getting Married. I dare you to watch that video at say that she cannot sing.
If you are a fan of intelligent pop music and the power of song than this is a record that I can’t recommend enough. She may not be as fashionable as she once was, but there she is, off on her own, with the same passion and conviction that she had when everyone was watching.